The Big Fresno Fair Grandstand, known today as the Brian I. Tatarian Grandstand, was originally erected in 1888. In the earlier days of The Big Fresno Fair, the Grandstand provided an entertainment arena for aviation shows to daredevil stunts to air races that would thrill Fairgoers in between the horse races. In 1919, the Fair’s secretary-manager Clyde G. Eberhart arranged a planned train wreck in front of the Grandstand. More than 25,000 spectators came to witness the two locomotives collide. The two trains, both purchased from Santa Fe Railway for $8,000, consisted of two engines, six cars, and two cabooses. Each locomotive was strapped with dynamite and placed on the tracks heading towards one another. The event ended in an earth-shattering wreck as the trains ended their last journey. Credited to this big event, that week’s attendance for the Fair was close to 100,000 Fairgoers.
After a fire destroyed part of the Grandstand and Speedway just a few days before the Fair’s opening in 1924, workers quickly completed the reconstruction and finished building the new raised Grandstand by the second day of the Fair on September 29, 1924. In 1938, improvements began on the Grandstand including the addition of 4,000 seats and a restaurant that replaced the original Victorian-style, turreted Wooden Grandstand at the track. Standing room was also added that could accommodate an additional 4,000 spectators. The total cost of the improvements came to $117,542, with the Federal Public Works Administration covering half of the cost and the rest coming from the State and Fresno County. Improvements continued throughout the 1960s beginning with the enlargement of the mezzanine in 1960 and an enclosed racing press box with three new box seat sections in 1961. Just a few years later in 1969, the Grandstand received a new roof over the seating area to improve views for visitors wanting to enjoy the races. More seats were added again in 1973 – bringing the total number of box seats from the original 657 to 1,024.
In 2010, with support of Friends of the Fair, the Luxury Deck was added to the Brian I. Tatarian Grandstand, providing a bird’s eye view of both the finish line and the paddock! During the 2017 Big Fresno Fair, the Brian I. Tatarian Grandstand will be home to nine days of live horse racing excitement - welcoming thousands of Valley residents to the hoof-pounding action first-hand!